With a pandemic, everything changes. Well, lots of things, anyway. And one of the things that changes is University Open Days. We used to get people physically visiting, of course. And of course we don't any more. For me that is actually quite convenient, as I used to be one of the people who organises the open days. And now our marketing team is doing that. I thought we would be just a recording Open Days as they used to happen, but that is not how it panned out. They use some tool called Meet and Engage. Earlier in the year, we got a little tutorial from them so we would know how to use this tool. I asked for a separate tutorial because I wanted to know if it would be compatible with Dragon. And it sort of was! So I participated in the next virtual open day.
The time investment is modest this time! The whole open day takes a fair while, of course, because all prospective students get to interact with both the central University, and with the schools. And we only do the school bit. How it works is that we all log into Meet and Engage, and also into Microsoft Teams, and someone from marketing has the overview. She knows (our designated people are female) what is going on. For instance, she knows when the prospective students arrive, and what sort of welcome message they get. Then she lets them in to the chat session, and that is where we come in. We make sure we are ready with a welcome message. Then the prospective students just ask questions in the chat, and the marketing person assigns questions to staff. And that is why we are also on Teams; if the marketing person doesn't know who can answer a certain question she can just ask, and then someone will volunteer. And sometimes someone will just suggest something interesting to say. And sometimes we're just chatting a bit if it is quiet.
The marketing people also have lots of videos and other resources ready; for instance, if the student asks about job prospects, they just put on a video in which our ex-students explain where they ended up. Or if one is interested in coral reefs they load a video of a coral reef; that sort of thing. It's quite cool, really!
I found it a bit difficult; the software doesn't really work that well with Dragon. I'm sure it is possible to click on the message so you can answer it using Dragon, but I haven't found out how yet. And the problem is, of course, that when I am working the program, I can't use the audio of the Teams video call, and vice versa. And I am not quite impressed by how well Teams works with Dragon either. So it is a bit clumsy! And I have been using my arms. I hate doing that; I can feel it for at least the rest of the day. I should really find out how to work the entire software by voice.
Anyway; so this was my first attempt. We had one hour in the morning (with 15 minutes added to the start to make sure everyone is ready when needed), then lunch, and then another hour in the afternoon. It does basically take the core out of the day! But it's not anywhere as invasive as a real open day.
I hope we were sufficiently engaging and convincing, and that all the students we spoke to will come to the School of Ocean Sciences! We'll find out in September. And I suppose will have another open day soon. If we do I will have to make sure I have practised!